Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah - a key UK partner (Reuters)
Saudi Arabia has lashed out at the UK saying it is "insulted" by a parliamentary inquiry that reviews Britain's relations with the country and Bahrain.
Saudi officials warned that they are reviewing key trade deals between the states in order to "re-evaluate their country's historic relations" with the UK in response. "All the options will be looked at," officials said.
As anticipated by the IBTimes UK , the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) announced it would be opening a review into the UK's relations with two key Gulf Arab partners, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, in the lights of reports of human rights abuses.
In a briefing on Bahrain organised by Index on Censorship, Labour MP and committee member Ann Clwyd had said: "Eric [Lord Avebury, joint vice-chair of the Parliamentary Group on Human Rights] and I have raised the question of Bahrain over and over again in the House of Lords, House of Commons and obviously we're not satisfied with the answer we've had."
The FAC said the inquiry would look at how UK balances its various interests in these countries in defence, trade, security, counter-terrorism and human rights.
But Saudi ambassador in London Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf Al-Saud told the BBC that the Gulf Kingdom would "not tolerate or accept any foreign interference in the workings" of the Gulf Co-operation Council.
"The Kingdom will not permit a group of so-called human rights activists, supported and funded by foreign entities, to implant a new foreign-linked political system in a fellow GCC country," another senior Saudi official said.
The FCO replied confirming that Saudi Arabia is a "key strategic partner" in the region and "one of the closest friends and allies".
Saudi Arabia and Britain entertains bilateral trade ties for a total of nearly £4bn only last year.
There are 200 UK/Saudi joint ventures with total investment of more than £11bn, according to the UK Trade and Investment Office.
The FCO said it will respond to the FAC in due course, "setting out the detail of our deep, broad-based relationship with Saudi Arabia and the strength and importance of our partnership".
Saudi Arabia has tried to blame Iranian interference for the pro-democracy protests taking place in Bahrain. However, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) has found no evidence of Iranian government instigation behind the demonstrations.
With a Sunni monarchy, relying on a largely Sunni power base, the majority Shia population on the island has for years been disfranchised and left on the margin of the country's political life.
The government has mainly depicted the protests as Shia-led and based on sectarian demands. But no single evidence of Shias targeting Sunnis in the country has been found so far.
Saudi Arabia sent around 1,000 troops of its feared National Guard to Bahrain last year to help cool off the unrest.
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